‘AND I SHALL HAVE SOME PEACE THERE’ (February 2011) got its title from a poem I first read in college, more than 30 years ago; “The Backyard Parables” (January 2013) from a thread of a very rudimentary religious education entwined with my lifelong insistence on digging deeper in everything I do.
The backstories on how I named my books:
‘And I Shall Have Some Peace There’
FOR EACH OF US, I suppose, there is a poem or poems that we never forget; William Butler Yeats’s “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is one of mine. When it was time to name the book I had just finished writing, in November 2009, I could think of nothing better to call it than the Yeats line that had long called out to me:
‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’
By William Butler Yeats
I WILL ARISE AND GO NOW, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
(You can listen to a historic reading of this poem by Yeats himself on the Poetry Archive.)
‘The Backyard Parables’
I’VE ALWAYS CONNECTED to the garden on two levels—what I call “horticultural how-to and woo-woo,” the practical and the philosophical. So when I went to name my latest book, in 2011, I wanted a title that spoke to that double harvest I’ve enjoyed—the vegetables and flowers, sure, but also the life lessons.
Enter the word parables, which I vaguely recalled from my brief, none-too-rigorous religious instruction read like extended analogies or metaphors, meant to shed light on something other than the facts of their actual plot.
In “The Backyard Parables” I cover some tactical dirty secrets like pruning, seed-shopping and mulching, in a series of practical sidebars laced into the memoir, but I do so in the hopes that those mere facts of horticulture will serve as catalysts to the reader’s deeper engagement. The tips are my bribe, but not the main ingredient—they’re like the literal surface level of a parable, but by no means the whole story.
The complete version of how parables found its way into the title is here, in this free excerpt.
‘A Way to Garden’
MY FIRST BOOK, “A Way to Garden” (1998) was easy to name, because I knew all along that it wasn’t anything so absolute and authoritative as “The Way…” but just my way, a single way among many possible ones. Ten years after it was published, I named my garden website for the book, in 2008. And then the original name—re-incarnated and run-together into one word as a url address—got a whole new connotation.
I had just moved away from my city life and dropped out to rural living in my upstate New York garden when I created awaytogarden.com—so people who visited the site took it to mean “Away to Garden,” as in, she ran away, finally, to the garden. True no matter how you spell it: a way, or away.